The Doors: Then and Now

This one’s for Chris. He was that guy in high school that was consumed by music. He was the DJ for all the school dances and knew about concerts and new albums slated to debut before anyone else. More than that, though, he has a superhuman ability to listen to music with a critical ear and pull out the nuances of songs and melodies that the rest of us find “nice” or “pleasurable” or “awesome” and name them, describe them, flesh them out and give them life. Yup, Chris’ superpower is music. I love reading his blog because even if I don’t know many of the bands or songs he writes about, he gives them life in a way that nobody else can. And generally inspires me to stretch myself and my music habits. So, Chris, this one’s for you.

“Show me the way to the next Whiskey Bar,” Jim Morrison croons in that playful, choppy, dancing cadence and I close my eyes and imagine his unruly head of curls bouncing as he prances across the stage. While I own this song, I haven’t chosen to play it in a long time; maybe 20 years, if I’m forced to calculate.
I love The Doors. There is something about their music that sets me down squarely in a beat-up cabin in Central Oregon, watching the melting snow drip from the eaves as I shiver beneath layers of musty old quilts, thick with the smell of cigarettes and marijuana and sweat. It was during one such weekend that I read the biography of Jim Morrison and was alternately enthralled and disgusted by his life of excesses and childishness, his absolute genius with lyrics and poetry and magnetic, mesmerizing charm.
During the week I was a college student, dutifully plugging away in biology and chemistry classes on a Presidential Scholarship, fulfilling my parents’ edict that I get a degree and Become A Success. By 3:00 on Friday afternoons, I was often headed out to the mountains with my high school boyfriend and a carload of his skateboarding rogues, not to return to my other universe until Sunday night. I stepped out of the predictable and planted my right foot smack in the middle of a soggy, muddy place driven by the most basic desires. Sleep when you want. Eat what you want. Say what you want.
I knew I couldn’t exist in both places for long and reading Jim’s biography was the beginning of the end for me. I simply couldn’t envision a life run by carnal needs. Perhaps because this life was perpetually dark, or at least dim. The lighting in the cabin was poor thanks to the monumental trees that surrounded it and the beating the place had taken over the years. Sleeping late meant we were up late, squinting at each other, the light from the fireplace and the cherries of our cigarettes the only illumination. The mood of the music, The Ramones, The Doors, Sid Vicious, was always dark and angry or melancholy and depressing – even when it pretended to be a rallying cry to action.
I gradually moved away, spending more weekends on campus. Pleading exams or papers due, I was able to extend my days bathed in the fluorescent lights of the dorms or the sun in the quad. My boyfriend and his cohorts mocked me and their words felt a lot like the way I envisioned the inside of that Whiskey Bar.
Today, as I sit in a dimly-lit coffee shop and hear that spark of brilliance coming from the speakers that is Jim Morrison, I am able to stop a moment and remember what it felt like to lie under the quilt and listen to an entire Doors CD. Unlike then, I don’t feel the seductive melancholy pulling me to abandon the outside world and exist solely in Jim’s world. I can recall with some fondness the group of kids that we were, seeking our own rebellion and hoping against hope that it had something to do with following a rock star in to a world of indulgence and camaraderie that never had to end.

14 replies
  1. Sandi
    Sandi says:

    Whoa, this post took me back . . . a lot more years than yours 🙂 when I listened to the Doors, CD hadn't been invented yet, I don't think 8 tracks had been invented yet actually. We had albums!

    Still, I remember the rebellion, the angst, the anti-establishment-ism, sleeping on the floor in musty old sleeping bags, and many of the same other enticements you mentioned.

    This was a very well written post! Thanks Kario!

  2. Pat Garcia
    Pat Garcia says:

    Kari, thank you for your insights. I remember that time. I remember The Doors and Chicago, Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendricks. Music that was played and rung out from the soul but as you the pull is not there any more and I am so happy that I chose another way.
    Frank Sinatra once sang a song, and the first line was When I was seventeen. Your article made me go back and remember.
    Very nice article and I enjoyed it.

  3. chriswreckage
    chriswreckage says:

    Kari, I am so humbled by your kind words. This is all very exciting to me. I do live for music and what makes it so enjoyable is when it connects with people on such a deep level. I write about music because I cannot contain my sheer joy when I hear something I like and I am equally inspired and driven when I encounter that passion in others. This is a beautiful and thoughtful post. I love your descriptions of the scenes where you found yourself and how that soundtrack influenced and effected the atmosphere and your perception of it. I am gald you can look back and enjoy the music again and take solace that you took a good path.


  4. Unknown
    Unknown says:

    I love classic rock and the bands from that era take up a lot of space on my iPod. Can't think of any bands today that come close to The Doors, Yes, Aerosmith, etc.–maybe Coldplay? Thanks for the memory!

  5. Daron Henson
    Daron Henson says:

    "The Doors: Then and Now" is a wonderfully written story. It is rare to find somebody who is influenced by music as I am. I have my own selection of music that brings back memories of the past.

  6. Dee
    Dee says:

    Dear Kari, . . . I missed out on much of what you've written here. But I can well remember my move into melancholy because I thought all "great" writers suffered angst and were melancholy and moody. What a twit I was! Peace.

  7. Unknown
    Unknown says:

    I had a crush on Jim Morrison when he was still alive. There was something about the planes of his face, his hair, and the depth of his voice that spoke to a part of me that hadn't yet awakened – I was 9 in 1968 – but his singing stirred it before it awoke.
    Thank you for this lovely remembering post. It is a pleasure to read what his music meant to you, even if it was a bit dark. You made a conscious choice for yourself, and that is beautiful.
    Central Oregon…I love it there. That's where Dominck Dunne's life began again after a huge failure. He started a writing life, and flourished.

  8. Peggi Tustan
    Peggi Tustan says:

    Well said. I still melt when I hear, "Come on baby, light my fire…" It was interesting hearing your perspective, Kari.

  9. Deb Shucka
    Deb Shucka says:

    I love this post. A great story about growing up and acceptance. Sandi and I are the same age – and probably have similar memories around Doors music. It's so interesting to me that Jim Morrison reached at least one more generation, and in much the same way.

  10. Alicia D
    Alicia D says:

    isn't it amazing how music can define these moments in our lives and hearing a song again can put us right back in that "mood or mindset?" Very cool piece!

  11. says:

    Your light is too bright to ever remain in a smoky cave with the likes of Jim Morrison. Glad you were just visiting and didn't stay there.

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  13. Miss Devylish
    Miss Devylish says:

    I didn't know you liked The Doors.. I do remember sitting in your car I believe and you turning me onto Berlin for the first time.. What would I have done w/out you? I hate to think about it. 😉 xo


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